Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Circadian What-now?

Sigh. You would not think that it is possible to sleep in a tiny, florescent-light-buzzing cubicle with a hard chair and a hard floor (and ugly industrial carpet), would you? You would think.

Sadly, you'd be wrong. I had two naps today, and very little of the day was spent in a mental status that could be characterized as "alert." Isn't the whole point of knowing one's circadian rhythms to be able to work productively during one's "up" times? Careful attention today to my own ebbs and flows of natural and caffeine-induced wakefulness proves that, if you were to chart out said patterns, you would only see ebbs. It's like the tide is permanently out. Perhaps it is a longer-term weather pattern. Could I blame it on El Nino?

Times of sub-par productivity in this cog's life include: immediately after eating; immediately before eating; when thirsty; when drinking; when in need of a bathroom break; five minutes after any actual slice of productivity has been accomplished; any point, anywhere in the world, a blog feed has been updated; when the moon exerts gravitational pull.

The worst part is that clockwatching, as opposed to in an office job, produces absolutely no effect. Or even a negative effect. Sure, I could go home at five (ok I walked out at 4:30) but all that time spent flipping between various windows and rereading the same passages and taking bathroom breaks counts for nothing. Not only I have not, a la De Certeau's notion of la perruque,* stolen my salaried time back from my employer ---- hey, wait! I'm not even getting paid this summer! Why am I doing this? ---- but the less I finish today means the more I have to work on this project tomorrow. And that damn paper is not writing itself ---- believe me, I checked on the way back from every bathroom break.

Isn't it funny how academics practice so much self-imposed, rather than external, discipline? Especially the ones who study Marxist theory and take anti-exploitation stances on various labor topics. And yet, we're so honest. Why is it, that with so little external oversight, we have set up a system that takes to heart the worst aspects of the corporate work world: mandatory unpaid overtime, constant immersion in our work topics without regard to vacation or mental time off, academic speedups in terms of the ratcheting up of tenure requirements, the increasing difficulty and complexity of our research itself, and the increasing use of a "casualized labor force," i.e. poorly-paid adjuncts with little to no job security? If we're so smart, why didn't we set up a scam to freeload off the system? You know, like how corporate executives make millions sitting on each others boards and voting each other stock options and retirement packages, "promoting up" the occasional colleague who gets caught not doing any work. And what do we do? We deny each other tenure based on ever-rising standards we ourselves often have not met. And our solutions for improving the system involve even more work, i.e. organizing, rather than, say, a general strike. No wonder the "tenured radicals" haven't been asked to leave the building. We're excellent role models for teaching corporate underlings how to internalize the proper work ethic. (And before you come down on me I admit I'm one of the worst of the lot; my classes are like boot camp.)

I don't know where I'm going with this; really I feel as if I should be manning the barricades after that outburst, but I also just ate dinner. So I shall decide between going back to my ILL reading or taking yet another nap.

*The above linked site has the best and most concise definition of la perruque I could find (why is this concept not on De Certeau's wikipedia page?), and furthermore, I couldn't quite tell if the article was a spoof or not; please enlighten me.

5 comments:

jb said...

Yeah, I know. It dawned on me recently that I don't get my first paycheck until September 15, and yet I've been working pretty hard--on stuff directly related to my new job--since about June 1. But if I *don't* do all of this advance and unpaid labor, I myself will be the one and only person to be totally screwed this fall. Something seems fishy in the system...or perhaps my degree simply didn't prepare me for my new job, which is in fact exactly what the problem is here.

Flavia said...

This is a brilliant post. I spent too much time clockwatching today myself (in the sense of noting that time was passing, while not doing much with it), but since I'm revising I was able to say, "okay, so I spent barely 2.5 hours actually working today, but I revised 10 pages! Some of them extensively!" I'm totally getting back on the output- rather than input-based goals bandwagon.

And incidentally, I love this:

Times of sub-par productivity in this cog's life include: immediately after eating; immediately before eating; when thirsty; when drinking; when in need of a bathroom break; five minutes after any actual slice of productivity has been accomplished; any point, anywhere in the world, a blog feed has been updated; when the moon exerts gravitational pull.

Tiruncula said...

Oh, yes, meeee toooooooo. Brilliant post.

undine said...

Yes, indeed--what flavia and tiruncula said.

And it is totally possible to fall asleep sitting bolt upright on a hard chair in a tiny cubicle, even twice during a day. Think of it as the corporate types do; surely they have a name for it, like "energy recharging alertness production" or some such thing.

Sisyphus said...

No, no, Undine, these naps were on the floor, sans pillow. And involved full-on sleep, not just dozing.

Flavia, I've tried your "trick yourself into working by procrastinating on something else that is due" and now I just have four projects in various stages of completion, none of which I want to work on.

jb, I agree that there's a big system problem here. If one person decides the system is stupid and just doesn't do work, that person gets kicked out; it doesn't work to change on an individual level. It would have to be all of us in the profession counting 1, 2, 3, jump! and going down together.

What would happen if we organized a nationwide nap-in?